The Checker Maven

Atomic Marvin

Marvin J. Mavin
Captain, Detroit Doublejumpers

Marvin J. Mavin, checker star and captain of the major league checker team, the Detroit Doublejumpers, had been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, doing training work with the local semi-pro team, the Santa Fe Salsa. As an exciting conclusion to his visit to the Land of Enchantment, Marvin was invited to come up to Atomic City to take on its supercomputer, nicknamed "Road Rager," which ran a top-level checker program with the erudite name of "Plutonium Bomber Instantiation," or simply "PBI." It was rumored, however, that Marvin was at least as interested in trying out the local microbrews, especially "Atomic Ale," as he was in playing checkers.

On the Road to Atomic City, New Mexico

There was little time for diversions, however; Marvin finished up his training work in Santa Fe around noon on his last day there, and was due to begin his match with PBI just two hours later, at the "Nick the Geek" supercomputer center at the Atomic City Laboratory in Atomic City. Without further ado, Marvin drove up the mountain roads to his destination and was soon badged in at the supercomputer center. The auditorium was completely full as Marvin made his entrance to enthusiastic applause.

Everyone knew that this was something of an historical event. PBI was known to be one of the world's top computer programs (although there was some debate as to which one was really best). It would be playing against one of the top major league checker players. How would it all turn out? PBI's programmers were hoping for the best for their creation, but it seemed that the audience had much sympathy for Marvin.

Marvin sat in front of the Black pieces, ready to take on the silicon giant. "I hear that Atomic Ale is a real blast," Marvin said to one of the PBI programmers, chuckling at his cleverness. The programmer, seated on the White side with a computer console to his left, seemed to wince at Marvin's trite pun and muttered something under his breath to the effect that he thought Marvin was here to play checkers, not drink beer.

But just a moment later, the contest began.

Black: Marvin J. Mavin
White: Plutonium Bomber Instantiation

1. 9-13 21-17
2. 5-9 25-21
3. 11-15 23-18
4. 1-5 18x11
5. 8x15 30-25
6. 3-8 24-19
7. 15x24 28x19
8. 7-11 26-23
9. 9-14

Perhaps the best move here, but 11-16 or even 11-15 should also retain equality.

9. ... 22-18
10. 13x22 18x9
11. 6x13 25x18
12. 11-15 18x11
13. 8x24 27x20
14. 10-15 31-26
15. 4-8 20-16
16. 12x19 23x16
17. 8-11 16x7
18. 2x11 26-22
19. 11-16 21-17
20. 5-9 32-27

Marvin was looking pretty happy with himself. Up to this point the game had been very well played by both sides with no mistakes being made. He concentrated on the position for a while and then said, "Bomb Boy .... I think you've bombed out this time!" He made the following move.

21. 16-19

Marvin rocked back in his chair, folded his arms over his chest, and grinned. "What'll you do about that, Bomb Boy?" he asked. "You might be a real smart computer, but you ain't a match for Marvin J. Mavin! I think it's just about time to try out the local brew, because this game is sure over soon!"


White to Play, What Result?


Has Marvin indeed defeated one of the world's mightiest computers? Has he truly earned his beer today? Analyze the position and decide whether White should play on, or simply resign. When you have your answer, click on Read More for the high-yield solution.


21. ... 17-14!

Plutonium finds the only move to draw, as unlikely as it looks. Anything else fails. A hasty 29-25 loses at once to the elbow shot 15-18 22-15 13-29. And 22-18, or 27-24, or 27-23, simply lose a man for nothing.

22. 9x25 29x22

The whole point of Plutonium's 21st move. Black now must give back his extra piece and the game is drawn.

23. 13-17 22x13
24. 15-18 13-9


The auditorium erupted in applause. It was just about a perfectly played game all around, and Plutonium had found the game-saving move in a tough situation. Marvin, for his part, had taken on the giant supercomputer and held it at bay.

But Marvin didn't seem too pleased. He sat at the board, scratching his head, saying over and over, "I shoulda won. I shoulda won!" Finally he stood up, and instead of taking a bow to the continuing applause, simply said, "I'm gonna go find some beer."

The PBI programmer shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "Whatever, Marvin," he said. "Around this place, people can be really different, but I think you take the prize. Sure, let's go for a beer."

Hearing this, finally Marvin was happy.

08/08/09 - Category: Games - Printer friendly version
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